Sports Betting Suddenly Off Table in Massachusetts Budget Talks

Posted on: April 22, 2019, 07:02h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2019, 07:02h.

Massachusetts’ budget debate kicks off Monday but one item that won’t be up for discussion is sports betting, much to the regret of Republican Governor Charlie Baker.

Massachusetts sports betting
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo has barred consideration of any amendments dealing with Massachusetts sports betting regulation during budget negotiations. (Image:

Baker included $35 million in projected revenue from regulated sports betting in his budget plan and in January introduced a bill to legalize wagering at the state’s three casinos – only one of which, the MGM Springfield is up and running – as well as at its sole slots parlor, Plainridge Park.

Baker’s bill – along with a glut of other competing Massachusetts sports betting bills – asks lawmakers to seize the initiative in the competitive New England casino market and gain an edge over neighbors Connecticut by legalize sports betting.

But lawmakers have said no thanks, for now, at least.

No Need to Rush Massachusetts Sports Betting

South Coast Today reports that House Democratic leaders have barred consideration of amendments dealing with sports betting regulation during the budget negotiations.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Massachusetts sports betting is a no-go in this year, just that the House Democrats want all discussions about new tax revenue streams to take place later in the legislative session, where they can be given more consideration.

I don’t think it’s as easy as some people suspect it may be,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said of sports betting last week. “I’ve already found some different viewpoints on how we should proceed with it.”

Winthrop was a strong proponent of gaming when state voters chose to amend the constitution to legalize casinos in 2013 but prefers a cautious approach to sports betting to avoid any of potential missteps.

Rhode Island Gets It All Wrong

Rhode Island is the first state and only state in New England to have regulated sports betting, but in its haste to gain first-mover kudos it made some crucial miscalculations.

Last week the American Gaming Association said Rhode Island had misunderstood a study it had published on sports betting, which has led to the state raking in around $40 million less in revenues that it had expected since launch.

The projections the AGA had published were based on a fully mature and stabilized market with a tax rate of 15 percent with a legal framework that does not include any “unusual restrictions.”

Rhode Island chose to tax sports betting at 51 percent of gross gaming revenue, which makes it the highest-taxed market in the world and prohibited in-state college sports bets, putting the pressure on this notoriously low-margin vertical from day one.